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The Tell'em principle


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing the Presentation > The Tell'em principle

Tell'em what you're going to tell'em | Tell'em | Tell'em what you told'em | See also


This is a simple principle for framing and reinforcing presentations. The 'em is of course, an abbreviation for 'them'.

Tell'em what you're going to tell'em

When you start a presentation, or even a sub-topic, start by telling your audience what you are going to cover in the main part of the presentation.

If you are using a computer slideshow such as Powerpoint, it may be a single slide with a numbered list of bullet points. You can also be visual and use a more graphic diagram.

This frames the presentation for the audience, letting them build a picture in advance of what they are going to learn. It sets expectations, hopefully creating a pleasant anticipation. It gives people a sense of control, helping them to feel comfortable about what will happen next.


Having set the scene, the main body of your presentation now follows the structure that you have just given them.

A useful way of doing this in Powerpoint is to re-show the initial structuring slide at the start of each section, with the section that you are about to present highlighted, for example with a red line around it or in bold font. This reminds people of the structure and shows them how far through your presentation you are. If you are not using slides, then you can use this principle either by verbally repeating the structure or having a diagram permanently displayed, for example on a flipchart.

Tell'em what you told'em

Finally, summarise the presentation, 'telling them what you told them.' Repeat key points in each area.

In a Powerpoint presentation, this may be backed up with a repeat of the original slide or perhaps one with a few key annotations. In any case, it forms a good backdrop for 'any questions' (and if you want to be extra smooth, you can hyperlink from each item back to the section that covers it in more detail).

See also

Three Part Presentation


Mottershead, E. Leaves from a Speaker's Notebook, The Rotarian, October 1955


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